THE Upper House of Assembly has of late been mired in a series of controversies and divisions between the Senators and staff with some calling for the departure of the President ’Mamonaheng Mokitimi. The Lesotho Times’ ‘Marafaele Mohloboli (LT) spoke to Ms Monaheng (MM), who is the first female President of the Senate on the challenges that she has faced in her post and many other issues.
LT: What have you achieved since the advent of the current regime more than a year ago?
MM: It’s worth noting that when I took over the presidency of the Senate, there were no cordial relations between the Senate and the National Assembly. Our chamber is a reviewing chamber and often when parliament had to be represented in international parliamentary forums, you would find that the Senate was not represented and could not participate as only the lower house represented both houses.
We have however, improved the working relations between the two houses and we have come up with a quota on representation and we consolidate most of our business. Since I became the President, we now have representation and we are working as a team.
I have come up with a strategic plan as part of administrative issues to strengthen our oversight function as the upper house to restructure and reorganise the Senate and its secretariat.
We fast tracked the building of the Senate infrastructure though we still have some hiccups here and there. However, there is some light as we sought clarity on what was holding it back. We are almost there.
We orientated our teams and chairs of the Senate committees and the secretariat to capacitate them to be conversant with their duties.
We are working on a position paper to help us restructure and organise the Senate and its secretariat, we are just working on some final touches and very soon we shall be consolidating proposals from both houses, which is a good thing.
LT: What issues does the Senate wish the reforms process to address?
MM: We would like to see the Senate having its own parliamentary service. This would help us recruit our own personnel because as of now we still depend on Public Service to fill our vacancies and this is impeding our work.
This will also enhance our independence.
LT: What challenges has the Senate been facing in the past year?
MM: We came in place at a very bad time when the state is bankrupt and this is negatively affecting our day to day operations as we can’t capacitate our staff as much as we would want to.
We lack a lot in human and infrastructure resource and this is all due to lack of (financial) resources. The state of resources has also impeded negatively on our role in sensitising public participation which is part of our mandate.
Our research department also needs expansion and this boils down to lack of resources.
We also don’t have advanced technology to meet the demands of modern parliaments. However, our development partners are always trying to help with equipping us with gadgets although this still needs training.
Of late, the greatest challenge that I have seen is some resistance by some staff members and some Senators. Of late there is a lot of grudge harboring and hate resulting in evident divisions.
It is quite unfortunate because one strives to deliver without favor but there will still be some who see things negatively. There will always be some who are for me and those against me and this has become a trend.
The interaction among some staff members and some Senators is not a very healthy one to improve working relations. Unfortunately, this is bringing the institution into disrepute.
LT: What do you think can be done to address the situation?
MM: The current situation is beyond redemption. Things are really bad as it stands. For things to be better we need a miracle.
LT: What are the outstanding bills that need to be passed?
MM: We have no challenges because all the Bills are received by the Clerk and are given the priority they deserve.
The Bills are then designated to the relevant committees to deliberate on as expected and come up with reports to be presented when ready. All is well because things are being done procedurally.
So far, we have passed 15 motions and six bills and are still tabling some reports from other committees and hopefully they will be done before the Christmas break.
LT: How would you describe your leadership as a woman? Are you getting enough support and cooperation from the male members?
MM: My leadership is no different from that of those who came before me and all of which were men. I think those I lead are better placed to describe my leadership but I believe in team work.
I am getting such overwhelming support than I had anticipated and some of it is from women though you know that we have always been infamous for pulling down one another. My male counterparts are also very supportive.
I don’t feel the presence of those who don’t support me much because I prefer surrounding myself with positive people and always try to see good in all things.
For some, it’s not about gender but it’s about the fact that I was once one of them and therefore they show resistance.
LT: What does your day is your typical day like in terms of your work and the processes?
MM: My job entails administration and procedures and this I only do by having preparation meetings with the presiding officers and the Clerk to look into the business of the house. Then we decide on whether I lead the proceedings or my vice steps in.
Mondays and Fridays are dedicated to administrative issues and other businesses of the house including attending events.
LT: What is your response to calls by some Senators that you resign on allegations of abuse of office?
MM: The matter is being attended to through processes which are already in progress and it was also submitted to the Attorney General for legal advice.
It should however, be noted that there are procedures to be followed when there are such issues and likewise, this shall also follow the proper channels. So, we shall see what comes out this one as the petitioners have been asked to give supporting documents to their allegations.